Youth Ki Awaaz turns 9 today. And as I write this customary annual note, I feel indebted towards each and every one of those 75,000 people who decided to speak up using the platform. But more than anything, I wanna dedicate this year to the team we’ve built at YKA. It hasn’t been an easy task. After all, change isn’t easy for anyone. Over the last 3 years, we lost many teammates along the way. Many who stayed and left because changes came too fast. Every time someone left, I went through personal agony and pain because trust me, it isn’t easy building a team. And when you’re doing something you’re passionate about, it’s doubly difficult. I remember when a key teammate dropped out, and how it took me nearly a year to settle with the fact that change indeed comes too fast sometimes.
One thing that remained constant throughout was that YKA always made space for newer ideas, interventions and people. And that’s been the best part about this change. In 2016, the team finally settled. 26 individuals who come from diverse backgrounds – genders, sexualities, castes, class and bring with them learnings that I’ve never had before. We did some things right and some things wrong. We made many people happy and pissed some people off. But what I’m the proudest of is the team we’ve built, that carries YKA on its shoulders – that co-owns YKA and everything we do. That questions and debates and doesn’t settle. That learns each day how different it is to build something, as opposed to working for something.
I remember starting YKA as a personal blog because the legacy media lacked a bottom-up approach (it still does). I never thought a day would come when YKA will turn into a social enterprise being built by tens of individuals. Today, from fighting for the rights of ignored athletes to demanding justice for persons with disabilities, thousands use YKA every day to take the media back in their hands and create their own. And powering that at the core is our team of 26.
Like every year, last year was particularly different. We saw the biggest growth we ever did – growing millions of readers every month and hundreds of posts a day. YKA today has evolved beyond just a media platform – it is at the intersection of media, tech and social for progressive millennials. We launched some of the most high-impact campaigns around disability, sexism, Internet safety and more with partners like the UN, ILO, CBM India, Facebook India, and several others. Our team grew from 15 last year to 26 this year – also multiplying our impact through a growing community that cares.
This year saw some powerful stories: Savio Daimary’s story about Buli Basumatary, a gold-winning athlete who was forced to become a street vendor due to lack of Govt. support got the sports ministry to take action and ensure employment for the athlete. Jolly Mohan’s story of being a person with disability and not having access to clean accessible toilets at her workplace got her workplace to take action and reconstruct all toilets in the building to ensure accessibility for her. Soma Basu’s investigation on how skin trafficking in Nepal is ruining lives forced the Nepal Govt to wake up and take action against the organised crime – and these are just a few that stood out. This year, YKA’s flagship Converge saw more than 1500 people come together, offline, on issues they care about. And all this was made possible because we had a phenomenal team working long hours, dedicating their time and effort to ensuring that citizen voices count.
As we enter the 10th year, we resolve to build a platform that’s a lot more powerful and that reaches to millions more this year. Watch out!
I also owe special thanks to our investors Raghav Bahl and Ritu Kapoor, and the Ashoka Foundation for believing in YKA’s vision and supporting it through the last year.